Rogers Cup

With most of the Tennis world’s focus on Montreal, a Romanian in Toronto became more than just another runner up.

Sorana Cirstea’s week in Toronto will be remembered for the giants she slayed and the one she couldn’t. Along the way a supporters group that consisted of half of Bucharest and a smattering of folks who live to cheer for the underdog took over the grounds at York University.

As she’s done so often throughout her career, Serena Williams outclassed her opponent with an array of shots that we’ve come to define, simply perhaps, as ‘too good’. 6-2. 6-0 was an apt indication of what happened on Centre Court Sunday afternoon. Williams loves Toronto. She has friends here, she feels comfortable here. She’s expected to win every time she sets foot on court, a daunting task until you realize it’s Serena Williams we’re talking about. She’s got this.

Cirstea won the rest of the crowd over with a wonderful, tear laden speech that made even the most hardened cynic well up. We’re suckers for humility, and Cirstea gave us our fix, thanking her coaching staff for not deserting her, the volunteers for putting on a great tournament and the fans. Like a seasoned entertainer making one of 74 tour stops, Cirstea declared Toronto as her new favourite tournament. Maybe I’m being gullible, but I don’t think she was lying.

Cirstea referenced Tennis’s oddity among professional sports. It’s the most team oriented individual sport there is. Darren Cahill has done wonders for her game. Throughout the week Cahill timed his coaching timeouts to perfection. It looked as though it might’ve happened again after Serena raced out to a 3-0 lead in the first set. After Cahill’s intervention Cirstea found her footing.

Williams refused to wilt and captured her third Rogers Cup title.

Rafa Nadal led a master class of his own in Montreal.

Canada’s 55-year title drought at the Rogers Cup continues, but there were positives. Milos Raonic is now a top ten player and is firmly in the second tier of men’s tennis. The gulf between the good and the great, however, has never been bigger. Rafael Nadal ran Raonic ragged, punishing the Thornhill native’s weak backhand while neutralizing his big serve.

Like Cirstea, Ranoic endeared himself to a crowd that already loved him with his postgame remarks. The 22-year-old is now the youngest player in the top 10.

With his serve, his chance to be in the top 10 for a long time is very good. Then what you need is to work on the mental part and in the game from the baseline, to try to play the right way on the important points.

And there, via Nadal, is what we don’t know. We don’t know if Raonic will ever be able to play with Murray, Djokovic and Nadal from the baseline. We don’t know if he’ll be able to ‘play the right way on the important points’ as Nadal puts it. There is no set timeline for these players. Some, like Rafa, show they’re ready in their teens. Others, like Murray, need to get smacked around on the biggest of stages before they ascend to the top.

Most never make it. 99% of the players out there would kill to have a career like David Ferrer’s. Consistently good, but never great. At this point, would we be disappointed if that’s how Milos turned out?

Some final thoughts

  •  Slow courts in Montreal and Toronto make it difficult to predict if the results this week mean much in terms of the U.S Open. That said, bet against Serena and Rafa at your own peril. 
  • John McEnroe can still move for a 54-year-old.
  • The Djokovic-Nadal rivalry already had the drool worthy tennis. Now we’re getting a glimpse of that ‘I hate you’ vibe that makes great rivalries that much better.
  • The chef at the Rexall Centre is a genius. Thanks for some amazing, affordable food.
  • The food available on the concourse, however, was quite overpriced. Not shocking, but still.
  • Cirstea has all the tools to make noise in New York. Beating Wozniacki, Jankovic, Kvitova and Li in one tournament is almost as good as it gets.
  • The ballkids, staff and volunteers were terrific.
  • PK Subban umpiring three games during the Sampras-McEnroe Exo was fun and completely unnecessary.
  • I will miss ACE raising the roof and pumping his fists during the Stub Hub Move of the game. Not getting a picture with him will remain one of my biggest regrets.